Flensburg's shorelines

zu sehen sind drei Linien in verschiedenen Farben auf weißem Hintergrund. Zunächst wirken die Linien abstrakt, bei genauere Hinschauen fällt auf, dass die Linien die Form des der Uferlinien des Flensburger Hafens haben mit der Hafenspitze im unteren mittigen Bildbereich. Die Linien überschneiden sich teilweise, so dass es scheint, als ob verschiedene Uferlinien übereinander gelegt wurden.

Figure 1: Flensburg’s shorelines, collaboration between Nelo A. Schmalen and Felisha Maria Carenage (©Felisha Maria Carenage, VG Bild-Kunst).

The illustration of the Flensburg shorelines (Fig. 1) shown on the homepage of the Flensburg Postcolonial Network is a collaboration between Felisha Maria Carenage and Nelo A. Schmalen. It shows in stylised form the shorelines and embankments of Flensburg Port in three different historical phases, spanning the period from 1755 to the present day. The reconstructed, graphically overlaid shorelines, land reclamations and embankments from Schmalen’s master’s thesis were extracted by Carenage and changed in colour (Fig. 1). These lines were then visualised as part of the 𝔅𝔞𝔡𝔤𝔶𝔞𝔩 project 𝔈𝔩𝔢𝔤𝔦𝔢𝔰: 𝕡𝕠𝕤𝕥𝕔𝕠𝕝𝕠𝕟𝕚𝕒𝕝 𝕡𝕠𝕤𝕥𝕔𝕒𝕣𝕕𝕤, which was part of Felisha Maria Carenage’s postgraduate project at the Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts and Design Kiel. The project took place in collaboration with the Flensburg Postcolonial Network and was funded by the Flensburg Cultural Office.

In the work “Glève“, which was created as part of this project, Carenage uses the extracted shorelines to combine her reflections on desire, kinship and belonging in a postcolonial context with research on cities and infrastructures. In doing so, Carenage has also engaged with boat building in the Caribbean to speculate on the globally-intimate phenomena that enable domination over materials, topography and the Caribbean Sea – and which are simultaneously ruptured, in motion and thus create opportunities to subvert and disrupt powerful colonial relations in relationships and exchange. This can be seen in the multiplication and the resulting movements and colours that the shorelines and the sketch of the boat construction take on in Carenage’s finished work. Here there are not only rigid, fixed foundations and pillars of coloniality – such as modes of government and laws on nationality, gendered moral concepts, fixed shorelines and harbour structures – but also movements, disruptions, challenges, questions.

The following explains in particular the background to the graphic of the shorelines, which has its origins in a comparative map analysis by Nelo A. Schmalen in her master’s thesis “(Post)Coloniality of the urban transformations at the Eastern Port in Flensburg”.

Zu sehen ist die Überlagerung von zwei Zeichnungen. Der Hintergrund ist Hellblau. Eine der beiden Zeichnungen stellt die Flensburger Uferlinien dar. Dabei sind die Uferlinien jeweils mehrmals leicht versetzt übereinander gelegt. Die zweite Zeichnung sind Skizzen des Baues eines Bootrumpfs. Auch hier sind die beiden Teile der Skizze jeweils verdreifacht. Die Bootsrümpfe sidn jeweils farbig ausgefüllt. Verschiede Farben verlaufen ineinander. Unten links steht Glève. In zwei verschiedenen Schriftarten übereinander gelegt.

Figure 2. Glève by Felisha Maria Carenage. Here the work can be found at the website of the artist. (©Felisha Maria Carenage, VG Bild-Kunst)

Figure 3: Comparative spatial-historical map analysis by Nelo A. Schmalen, which shows the changes to Flensburg’s Port in three historical phases. The map is based on the Wergelandplan from 1849 and a map from 2019. (©Geo-Basis-DE/LVermGeo S und StA: XIV K/P 04499). CC BY-SA 4.0

How have the waterfront, the terrain and the settlement structure at Flensburg’s Eastern Port changed in the course of Flensburg’s colonial entanglements (Randeria 1999)? Using the method of a comparative map analysis and further methods, Schmalen identifies five historical phases (see Fig. 3). The map work illuminates which material infrastructures were created in Flensburg through profit in the colonial periods, and which traces of this are visible today.

Phase I (1581- 1754) begins in 1581 with the first mention of the ballast quay, the place where sailing ships were loaded with ballast before crossing the ocean. The transition to Phase II (1755-1864) marks Flensburg’s entry into trade with the Danish colonies in the Caribbean, the islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John in 1755. Phase III (1864-1923) marks the end of this connection in 1864 and the beginning of Flensburg’s incorporation into Prussia. Phase IV (1923-2020) begins with the completion of a free port (1923) in the course of the demarcation of the border between Denmark and Flensburg in 1920. Phase V concludes with current and future-oriented urban planning processes in the course of the redevelopment of the Eastern Port area. No suitable historical map material is available from Phase I. For phase V, an analysis of future prospects is carried out on the basis of planning documents. These two phases are therefore not included in the spatial-historical map work. The illustration of the Flensburg shorelines therefore only represents phases II to IV.

By overlaying the maps from the three phases, it is possible to recognise the changes to the shorelines and the surrounding terrain caused by land reclamations and the removal of material. Excavation of material usually involved the removal of sand or clay from the existing terrain (as ballast for ships or for brick production). Excavations are particularly recognisable by the changing slope lines (shown as hatched areas on the maps). Land reclamations are additons of material to the bank edge. These can be recognised on the map by the differences between the bank lines of the various phases and by the dashed bank lines for land reclamations within a phase.

Some of the results of Nelo A. Schmalen’s cartographic work are summarised below. The focus of this article is on using the maps to show how over 300 years of colonial history have left their mark on the cityscape of Flensburg.

Phasen I - V

Phase I (1581-1754): Start of the port infrastructure in the area

Phase II (1755-1864): Profits from enslaved labour and first transport infrastructure

Phase III (1864-1923): Industrialisation and European imperialism

Phase IV (1923-2020): Deindustrialisation and conversion

Phase V: Eastern port area as a redevelopment area for a sustainable, urban neighbourhood

Excavations and Land Reclamations

Excavations = removal of sand or clay from the existing terrain (as ballast for ships or for brick production), recognisable by the  hatched areas on the maps.

Land reclamations = additons of material to the bank edge, recognisable by the differences between the bank lines of the various phases and by the dashed bank lines for land reclamations within a phase.

Figure 4. Changes to the Eastern port in Phase II are shown in green. You can see the excavation of material for ballast [3] and bricks [5b] as well as the land reclamation for the English Bridge [16] in the area of the harbour tip. Illustration: Nelo A. Schmalen, (Map of 1849, StA XIV K/P 04499) CC BY-SA 4.0

1755 to 1864: Profit from enslaved labour and the first railway infrastructure

The first cartographically depicted phase (Phase II) covers the period in which Flensburg had direct connection and exchange with the Caribbean islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John (Danish: St. Jan) (1755 – 1864) due to its incorporation into the Danish state and Danish colonialism. From 1755, the Danish royal family allowed Flensburg merchants to trade with the sugar cane plantations in the Danish colonies. For 109 years, Flensburg merchants and shipowners had direct connection to the three Caribbean islands, then known as the “Danish West Indies”. During this time, the embankment line changed mainly due to the mining of sand for ballast and clay for brick production. The ships travelling to the colonies were loaded with sand or bricks at the ballast quay. Once they arrived in the colonies, the ballast was unloaded and usually exchanged for raw sugar, which was then shipped back to Flensburg, processed and sold at a profit. The bricks shipped as ballast were used to build the colonial infrastructure in Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas, for example, and still characterise the old town today. Thus, the changes to the Flensburg Port area through the excavation of material are also related to today’s material infrastructure in the post-colonial cities on the islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John (Schmalen 2023: 118, own translation).

The changes to the embankment line are therefore directly related to the sugar trade of the Flensburg merchants and thus also to the labour of enslaved people on the sugar cane plantations. They are therefore also directly linked to the global relationship of exploitation created by colonialism. The availability of energy resources is also linked to global relations of exploitation. The emerging fossil age of iron, steel and coal also changed Eastern Port: around 1840, land was added at the tip of the harbour to be used as tracks for the new harbour railway. This marked the beginning of a new transport infrastructure due to the use of coal as an energy resource. In this context, the “English Bridge” was also built in 1854, leading from the harbour tip to the centre of the inlet (see dashed land fill or land reclamation [16], Fig. 4). The name “English Bridge” is explained by the fact that the bridge was built by the English Railway Company to connect Flensburg with Husum and Tondern by rail. This connection enabled faster transport of goods between England and Flensburg and direct loading from the railway onto ships. English coal in particular travelled to Flensburg via this route (GfFS 1966: 350). Flensburg’s connections to the British Empire and the associated industrialisation are also evident in its infrastructure.

1865 to 1923: Industrialisation and European imperialism

The second phase depicted in the map (Phase III) begins with Flensburg’s incorporation into Prussia (from 1864) and encompasses Flensburg’s second colonial period as part of the German Empire and the Weimar Republic. Both colonial ties to the British colonies (especially to Jamaica in order to continue to obtain cane rum – so-called “German flavoured rum” – for rum production) and colonial ties to the German colonies in Africa were relevant for Flensburg during this period. After a referendum in 1920 established the border between Denmark and Germany in its current form, Flensburg, as a border town, began the construction of a free harbour as a duty-free area. Phase III ends with the completion of the free harbour in 1923.

Phase III is characterised above all by extensive land reclamations on the shoreline both in the north-western area of today’s Neustadt and at the tip of the inlet and from 1910 on in the eastern part of the port. These changes to the shoreline were made in the context of imperialism and emerging industrialisation. Imperial endeavours, i.e. the desire of states to extend their power beyond their own borders, led to the European colonial powers annexing large parts of Africa and Asia and dividing them up among themselves. The actors of colonisation were therefore no longer primarily individual trading companies or merchant families, but increasingly nation states (Wendt 2016: 33). During this phase, the colonies were primarily exploited as cheap suppliers of raw materials for industrialisation in European cities (Bauriedl 2019: 5). The raw materials from the colonies were processed in European industries and the products were ultimately sold at a profit – the colonies were also sales markets for this. Important for the processing and transport of raw materials and finished products was the access to fossil fuels, which enabled a greater range, especially in the transport sector. Thus, “imperialism and emerging industrialisation […] brought about a transformation of mobility and transport infrastructures […]. Fossil-free and relatively slow sailing shipping was supplemented and replaced by steam shipping in combination with the railway.” (Schmalen 2023: 75, own translation)

The changes in the shoreline observed in Phase III are almost without exception related to these changes in the mobility and transport infrastructure. For example, the land reclamation in the area of today’s harbour tip in the 1870s and 80s are related to the railway line to Kiel, Kappel and Satrup, for which the new Kiel railway station was built to the just right of the harbour tip (Fig. 5, [17]). In the 1910s and 1920s, further land fill or land reclamations followed on the eastern edge of the harbour (Fig. 5, [19, 20]). On the one hand, the connection to the Reichsbahn railway played a role here, and on the other, the creation of storage areas for the arrival of goods (still primarily coal from England, but grain was also stored during this phase). The “land reclamations and construction of railways and storage areas […] [are] part of the imperial integration and should be understood [as] a counterpart to railway lines in colonised places (e.g. Tsingtao or ‘German Southwest Africa’)” (Schmalen 2023: 87).

The land reclamations in the Eastern Port area also served to establish the port as a free economic zone. Parallel to the land reclamations in this area, sand was excavated from the bottom of the inlet to create sufficient water depth for the new free port. The sand was then used to create the beach areas of the Solitüde. The excavations that took place during this phase (Fig. 5, purple/pink shaded areas [19a, 5b, 20a]) were almost all related to the land reclamations in the area of the shoreline: material from the immediate surroundings (Ballastberg as well as Lautrupsbach Valley and Kielseng) was removed and used for laying the shoreline.

Figure 5: Changes to the eastern port in Phase III are shown in pink. Land reclamations took place for the new railway line to Kiel [17], for the connection to the Reichsbahn and the creation of new quay areas [19] as well as for the free port [20]. Material for the land reclamations was removed in the area of [19a] and [20a]. Illustration: Nelo A. Schmalen. (Map pf 1900, Quelle Fl SuK) CC BY-SA 4.0

Redevelopment area for a sustainable, urban neighbourhood

In 2020, the City Council passed a resolution stating that it wanted to develop the Eastern port aera into a sustainable urban district. One of the guidelines for this development is to make the historical references of the site visible. This should be used as an opportunity to make the complexity of the references visible, as they have been made visible in this text on the basis of Schmalen's work, and not to reproduce a one-sided romanticised image of "Flensburg as a maritime trading town".

1924 to today: Deindustrialisation and conversion

Phase IV from 1924 covers the period of utilisation of the free port and, with its end, the search for new uses for the site. The material changes in this phase are primarily characterised by the National Socialist regime (1933-1945) and the Heimatschutz style of architecture that emerged at the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the existing infrastructure was converted in the course of preparations for the Second World War, e.g. the use of the free port as a submarine harbour and the use of storage areas for fuel and ammunition. Other new infrastructures were built as part of the preparations for the war. These included bunkers (at the neighbouring green area of Volkspark) and two of the warehouses in the style of Heimatschutz architecture that are still visible today. In 1936 and 1939, two storage facilities were built in the area of the Eastern Port (see Fig. 3, [25] for the 1936 warehouse and [26] for the 1939 warehouse). These were used to store grain. Later (1959-80), further buildings were erected and the shore edge in the area of the warehouse built in 1936 was successively landfilled.

With the decline of the industrial harbour economy after the industrial years of the 50-80s, urban transformation began, whereby areas were converted into recreational and new residential areas. The ownership structure also changed: the newly developed areas are predominantly privately owned, while the old industrial harbour areas are owned by the city. The Eastern Port area has been an official area of redevelopment since 2020: the city of Flensburg is striving to develop a sustainable, urban neighbourhood here (https://www.ihrsan.de/stadterneuerung/hafen-ost).

Kolonialität in den Strukturen des Flensburger Hafens

Based on Nelo A. Schmalen’s work, this article has made it clear that the site of Flensburg’s Port in its current form can only be understood in connection with Flensburg’s colonial entanglements. The Eastern Port of Flensburg is characterised by colonial material infrastructures, as which “all transport, trade or processing infrastructures as well as the colonial materiality of the site can be understood, which benefited to varying degrees from the existence of the plantation economy or other colonial entanglements (e.g. in British colonies) or were shaped by them” (Schmalen 2023: 118). The colonial references differ in the various phases. The changes in Phase II primarily have direct colonial references, as they would not have taken place without Flensburg’s colonial ties with the Caribbean, e.g. the development of sugar refineries in Flensburg, the excavation of sand as ballast and the excavation of material for brick production, which benefited from the sale of bricks in the colonies. The mobility and transport infrastructures that emerged in Phase III, can predominantly be described as colonial-imperial infrastructures that integrated Flensburg into colonial economic interdependencies.

Overall, Schmalen’s work shows that local infrastructures in Flensburg can be understood as a “manifestation of global entanglement history” (Schmalen 2023: 121). This is particularly relevant against the backdrop of the current transformation of the site into a sustainable and urban neighbourhood: In the course of this transformation, the historical harbour function is re-emerging as an identity-forming image. Until now, the romanticised image of Flensburg as a “rum town” has often been used. However, the current urban transformation also offers the opportunity to visualise the complexity of this intertwined history and to critically reflect on Flensburg’s colonial history.

Felisha Maria Carenage’s artistic research conveys this history of entanglement in a different way and thus enables a combination of scientific, artistic and creative forms of knowledge production. The postcards designed by Felisha Maria Carenage in the project 𝔅𝔞𝔡𝔤𝔶𝔞𝔩 𝔈𝔩𝔢𝔤𝔦𝔢𝔰: 𝕡𝕠𝕤𝕥𝕔𝕠𝕝𝕠𝕟𝕚𝕒𝕝 𝕡𝕠𝕤𝕥𝕔𝕒𝕣𝕕𝕤 not only raise questions about the colonial background of architecture and infrastructure, but also pose related questions about the colonial references of consumption and lifestyles, global iconographies and gendered representations.

Eine weiblich gelesene Person of Color gekleidet in eine lilanes eng anliegendes Kleid, das bis zu den Knien geht, läuft auf den:die Betrachter:in zu. In der einen Hand hält die Person eine Jacke, in der anderen Hand eine Tasche. Die Person trägt eine Maske. Der Hintergrund ist lila pink melliert. Vor der Person auf Höhe ihrer Beine ist der Schriftzug "the one they call Queen".

Figure 6. Queen of Felisha Maria Carenage. Stacey Plaskett, one of the US Congresswomen who was part of the group of accusers against Donald Trump in the second impeachment trial in 2021. Plaskett is also a delegate from the US Virgin Islands in the House of Representatives. The work can be viewed on the artist’s website here. (©Felisha Maria Carenage, VG Bild-Kunst)


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